The Fragrance of Money, High-Minded Teens, Etc. takes

Seems like a telltale sign the Olympic Games have lost their luster. In a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, voters were asked which they’re more interested in watching: the presidential debates or the Olympics? Against all odds, the debates beat the Games, 48 percent to 43 percent. We can only assume many respondents gave what they considered to be the more respectable answer. Of course, the candidates could cater to all tastes by competing in the hop, skip and jump instead of the usual contest of rhetoric. If nothing else, it might improve their boredom quotients. Despite Al Gore’s surge in the polls, a Washington Post/ABC News survey this month found 14 percent of voters saying he’s “very boring” and another 27 percent saying he’s “somewhat boring.” George W. Bush fared a bit better, with 11 percent rating him as “very boring” and 20 percent saying he’s somewhat so.

What is the church’s position on violence? It depends. So viewers will conclude, anyway, as they watch a spot set in a confessional. As a priest nods gravely, an unseen sinner confesses he hit a man and then stood over the victim screaming in triumph. Priest: “How did that make you feel?” Sinner: “I liked it. I mean, liked it a lot.” Pleased by this response, the priest says, “Very good, my son. See you next Sunday.” The camera then shows the sinner putting his helmet on as he emerges from the confessional in full Colts uniform. Ah, so his actions fall under church doctrine permitting defensive violence. As the Colt leaves the church, we see a line of players, fans and cheerleaders waiting their turn. The spot ends with the word “Believe” on the screen—a suitable admonition to fans of a team that won just six games in the two seasons prior to last year’s surprising 13-3 record. Bates USA Midwest of Indianapolis created the spot.

Little wonder Americans are pressed for time: They’ve spent so much of it buying clocks. A survey by Maritz Marketing Research finds the average household has seven clocks. The peak clock-owning years appear to be 45-54, with eight clocks the average for people in that cohort. Confirming the notion that time is money, the poll found respondents with income under $15,000 own an average of five clocks, while those making $55,000-plus have eight.

Stereotype-debunking of the week: Teenage boys don’t regard success with girls as the most desirable thing on earth. A survey by MH-18 (a teen-targeted offshoot of Men’s Health) offered a menu of positive changes in life and asked which of them the respondents (boys age 12-17) would want most. The top vote-getter (27 percent) was “be smarter/get better grades.” “Be richer” (18 percent) edged out “be a better athlete” (17 percent). Parents will be either flattered or alarmed to learn that “improve relationship with parents” tied “improve success with girls” (13 percent). A mere 5 percent chose “improve looks.”

Honors for Fictitious Brand of the Week go to Sold, “a fragrance for closers.” The ad’s true product is a software that streamlines closing procedures for real-estate lawyers. When readers unseal the scent-strip tab they find the motto, “Closings. Maybe we like them a little too much.” Another in the series (by West & Vaughan of Durham, N.C.) mimics the style of ads for phone-sex services, promising that “Hot closing programmers are waiting to talk to you!”

If you think the college-student market is big now, wait until 2010. A report from the National Center for Education Statistics forecasts full-time college enrollment will rise 19 percent between 2000 and 2010, while part-time enrollment increases by 11 percent. This year’s total enrollment stands at a record 15.1 million. The number of kids in elementary and secondary school will “briefly stabilize” later in this decade before starting a rise “that is expected to continue for the remainder of the century.” In contrast to the ups and downs of the 20th century, “growth in the 21st century will be constant.”